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Corbyn reveals plan to re-nationalise bus services

By Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent

Jeremy Corbyn plans to give all local authorities the right to take bus services into public ownership if Labour wins the General Election.

The Labour leader told bosses on Monday of his latest pledge to wrest back some control from businesses, following his plan to create a nationalised broadband service to give free internet to all.

Telling the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) it is “nonsense” to call him anti-business, Mr Corbyn made the pitch that Labour is the party to deliver the investment and Brexit deal that bosses desire.

He told the organisation’s annual conference in London that he plans to give councils the power to undo some of Margaret Thatcher’s privatisation of the bus network in the 1980s.

Mr Corbyn said Labour will be “empowering local authorities to develop bus services where they don’t exist” by extending powers to bring routes into public ownership or franchise “to all”.

So far, only metro mayors have the power to re-regulate buses under the Bus Services Act 2017.

“Bus access is something that’s very, very important to all of your workforce,” he said.

“And, of course, to communities as a whole, and if we want to develop suburban and rural areas economically then there has to be a good quality public transport system for them,” he said.

While Labour’s official manifesto launch is not until Thursday, it is understood that bus pledges could also include a policy to fund free bus travel for all under-25s.

Mr Corbyn’s speech was in stark contrast to the previous speaker – Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister said he was not “averse to reducing taxes on business” but pledged to postpone further corporation tax cuts in a bid to divert £6 billion to the “priorities of the British people”.

A day earlier, CBI director-general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said she had concerns that Mr Corbyn’s nationalisation plans would “crack the foundations of our economy”.

And at the conference, she said the proposal to nationalise parts of BT was a “bolt from the blue” which had “sent a chill through boardrooms at home and abroad”.

But Mr Corbyn said: “It is sometimes claimed that I am anti-business, actually this is nonsense.

“If a Labour government is elected on December 12, you are going to see more investment than you’ve ever dreamed of, you’re going to have the best educated workforce you could ever had hoped for.”

He also tried to win bosses over with his transport plans and his pledge to ensure that every home and business has super-fast broadband by 2030.

And a new Brexit deal under Labour would solve the uncertainty quicker than the Tories and include the customs union and EU single market access many businesses desire, Mr Corbyn said.

CBI director-general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said Labour’s broadband plan had ‘sent a chill through boardrooms at home and abroad’ (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He welcomed as “music to my ears” CBI demands that the next government reduces inequality and tackles the climate crisis, adding: “Labour doesn’t believe the state can do all that alone.”

The Labour leader defended plans to bring some services into public ownership, saying it is not “an attack on the foundations of a modern economy, it’s actually the very opposite”.

He also formally announced his pledge to create 320,000 climate apprentices in England during a first Labour term.

The scheme, which could create 886,000 apprenticeships by 2030, is tasked with combating the skills shortage in the workforce so companies can compete and succeed in the green economy.

The programme to train people for roles such as technicians in renewable energy and transport would be funded by diverting 25% of the funds employers already set aside through the apprenticeship levy.

It would be topped up by any dividends over the cap paid into Labour’s inclusive ownership funds, which the party said is expected to be £700 million by 2024.

“The opportunities created for business under a Labour government will be immense,” Mr Corbyn said.